Skip to content
How to Photograph Holiday Lights

How to Photograph Holiday Lights

It’s Christmas time! You know what that means– Christmas lights! Here are a few simple steps to help you take better photos of holiday lights this year. Whether you have a point and shoot or a DSLR, you can use these steps to improve your photos of holiday lights this season. Use a tripod You will need to be able to take photos in low lighting and with longer shutter speeds. If you want crisp sharp pictures of holiday lights you need to use a tripod. Turn off your flash Your camera, whether it is a point and shoot or a DSLR from, will want to put the flash on in low lighting, unless you are shooting in manual mode. Make sure you turn it off so the flash does not wash out your photo. Let the lights illuminate your subject. Open up your aperture Who doesn’t love holiday light bokeh? In order to achieve this, you need to have your aperture pretty wide open. Close up/narrow your aperture As said above, if you want some bokeh have your aperture wide open. However, if you would like the starburst effect in your holiday photos then you need to close it up to at least f/18. Don’t wait until dark Wait until 30 minutes after sunset to take outdoor shots. Most people typically think they need to wait until it is completely dark outside to take photos of their house or a light display. If you go out shortly after sunset, it is still dark enough to see the lights but you are able to capture a lot of the surrounding details. Look for Strong Composition and Creativity This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of this type of photography. When out shooting, it is often difficult to capture the magic of the scene. Things that can really help your composition are not really all that different than typical landscape photography. Just start with the question; “What is it about this scene that I really like?” and “What do I want to emphasize?”. Get lower or higher for a different perspective. Try different angles to see what works best. Shoot close and wide, or stand back and zoom in. Pull out your macro lens or even a tilt-shift to try something different. Zoom bursts, and long exposures with de-focusing techniques can really make for some unique images. Make the Ordinary Extraordinary Overall, perhaps the simplest thing you can do is find a scene that is a strong one any time of the year and just happens to be lit up for the holidays. If nothing else, now you have a new time of day in which to shoot that scene with your mirrorless camera from There are many challenges and opportunities when it comes to documenting the beautiful displays of festive holiday lighting. These are some of the things you can do to overcome these challenges and seize the opportunities.    
Previous article Tips to Take The Perfect Holiday Card Photo

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields